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Rediscovered art works by Victor Pasmore feature in Hastings Contemporary's re-opening exhibition
Victor Pasmore Instillation view, Hastings Contemporary, courtesy of The Artist’s Estate and Marlborough, New York and London. Photos ©Lens&Pixel.

HASTINGS.- Hastings Contemporary announced that the gallery re-opened with two spectacular new exhibitions - Victor Pasmore: Line and Space and Sir Quentin Blake: We Live in Worrying Times.

With the continual generosity and unwavering support of its members, and the financial grant generously awarded by the Arts Council Covid -19 Fund and Hastings Borough Council, the Hastings Contemporary team has been able to prepare the gallery’s new exhibitions and create a safe and socially distanced environment. Gallery members and visitors can visit and enjoy the exhibitions from mid August, safe in the knowledge that their health and wellbeing is the gallery team’s priority.

Building on the global attention that the gallery’s ‘Robot Tours’ received during lock-down, Hastings Contemporary will now not only welcome guests through the doors, but will continue to host guests virtually via the telepresence Robot’s personal tours, enabling all visitors regardless of their location, to overcome barriers of isolation and continue to enjoy inclusive access to Hastings Contemporary’s much anticipated exhibitions.

Victor Pasmore (born 3rd December – died 23rd January 1998) lived until his death in Malta and was one of the greatest British Artists of his generation. Pasmore’s pioneering development of abstract art is considered to be one of the most significant and influential achievements in 20th century British Art.

This retrospective exhibition spans Pasmore’s career, from early figurative landscapes, to later abstract compositions. The revered artist was always experimental, part of what he described as ‘a developing process’. Pasmore’s work was constantly evolving, with an interest in form, composition and technique central throughout.

The former Tate Gallery Director Alan Bowness wrote in 1980 that Pasmore’s artistic practise was ‘surely one of the outstanding and most original contributions that anyone has made to the art of our time’.

Liz Gilmore Director of Hastings Contemporary says “Pasmore was hugely influential on generations of artists. This retrospective exhibition, the most comprehensive for many years, is a visual feast and demonstrates Pasmore in full flight. Visitors returning to Hastings Contemporary will have the opportunity to journey through the striking scale of his sublime, large abstract works, whilst also journeying through his diminutive early figurative works. We are thrilled to be able to exhibit the newly discovered and recently conserved pieces”.

Victor Pasmore married the artist Wendy Blood in 1940, and the couple had two children. In 1966 they bought an old farm in Malta where Pasmore lived and worked until his death in 1998. He worked as a Director of Painting at Camberwell School of Art, and as Head of Painting at Kings College, Durham University, as well as lecturing at Harvard University. In 1954 Pasmore was appointed Consulting Director of Urban Design in the South West Area of Peterlee New Town in County Durham. Pasmore was awarded Honorary degrees from the Royal College of Art and the University of Warwick and was presented a C.B.E in 1959. He became a trustee of the Tate Gallery in 1964 and was elected a Royal Academician in 1983. Pasmore’s work can be found in major museums and public collections around the world.

Also opening after a spectacular digital exhibition is Sir Quentin Blake’s ‘We Live In Worrying Times’ which captures Blake at the heights of his creative productivity, bringing together a thrilling collection on show in the gallery (from the mid August opening) of more than 170 new drawings, paintings and a large-scale mural described as Blake’s Guernica which ,with its rawness and originality, is unlike anything the artist has produced in his illustrious career.

Earlier this year, Sir Quentin began energetically producing a new body of work around the theme of concern for the state of the world we currently live in. The resulting exhibition – We Live In Worrying Times - was due to open at Hastings Contemporary during Easter but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was postponed until the gallery was able to launch its Robot Tours, which have now gained national and international recognition.

Many themes from this new show resonate with the current global crisis, highlighting Blake’s clear and resolute sense of feeling for others, particularly those experiencing hardship and distress. We Live in Worrying Times features multiple series of works, many exploring subject matter and techniques that feel both familiar and radically different, balancing somewhere between the dream-like and profoundly introspective. The subject matter seems drawn from a world, much like out own, pushed to the cliff-edge of its own existence: displaced figures rove across empty landscapes blasted by war, or ecological crisis; sinister planes and drones haunt the skies above; and the implacable stares of dozens of anxious and havoc-struck faces are the focus of an array of portrait studies of assorted refugees, apprehensive women, orphans, ‘unfortunates’, and some grotesques Blake has called ‘eroded heads’.

At the centre of this new exhibition is The Taxi Driver, a thirty-by-five foot mural, completed by Blake in a single day at Hastings Contemporary, which pays homage to Picasso’s Guernica, transposing its anti-war sentiment to the present day. Blake was inspired to create the work after a fateful encounter with a taxi driver several years ago, who – lamenting that ‘we live in worrying times’ – encouraged Blake to take up the mantle of artist-hero and produce a new Guernica for the world, an outcry against the encroaching global disasters of the near future.

The encounter with the taxi driver felt like a dream to the artist; he asked for the taxi driver’s name, so that he could let him know the outcome of his work, but the driver replied that wasn’t necessary as he “kept an eye on everything anyway”.

Sir Quentin Blake previously appearing during lockdown via the gallery robot had said of the exhibition (that was launched on-line) “When I proposed to Hastings Contemporary the idea of an exhibition called We Live in Worrying Times I was hoping to salute those people, wherever in the world, experiencing suffering, disturbance and distress. I had no premonition that we should soon be visited by worrying times of our own. No doubt there are institutions which, in such a situation as this, can do nothing except close their doors. Hastings Contemporary is not like that, so that I was delighted but not all together surprised when the gallery quickly responded to the situation with an alternative digital offer for We Live In Worrying Times and became even more contemporary in the process.”

With Sir Quentin’s inimitable energetic approach, We Live in Worrying Times captures the essence of human feeling, the exploration of modern life and the creative mind in his distinctive and powerful style.

Sir Quentin Blake is the first Artist Patron of Hastings Contemporary, and regarded by many as one of the world’s greatest artists and illustrators. Blake has a long association with Hastings (his house is a short walk from the gallery) and he has been a high-profile supporter of Hastings Contemporary ever since it first opened to the public in 2012 as Jerwood Gallery. As his very own seaside home-from-home, Hastings Contemporary has created dedicated space for showing Quentin Blake’s artwork that can be enjoyed all year round as part of the gallery’s diverse exhibitions programme, with several new, bespoke shows of his work opening each year.

Previous exhibitions have included Moonlight Travellers, Dedicated Readers, Feet in Water. Airborne and The Only Way to Travel, the artists biggest ever UK show, which brought 100 pieces to the gallery’s ground floor space. For Sir Quentin, collaborating with Hastings Contemporary has opened up new possibilities in his work, prompting him to explore new approaches and themes – such as migration, mental health and other aspects of our lives – in the knowledge that the results will find themselves “sympathetically shown in this extraordinary gallery…They are truly pictures for Hastings Contemporary.”

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